Europes first mission to the Red Planet, continues its successful mission with another successful high-risk post-launch milestone. Mars Express engineers breathed a sigh of relief this morning at the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), in Germany.
If a particularly delicate operation had not proceeded as planned, it would have been impossible to deploy the Mars Express lander, Beagle 2, on arrival at Mars.
This crucial operation consisted of releasing Beagle-2s launch clamps. These clamps are extra attachments that ensure the lander stays perfectly fixed to the spacecraft during the launch and is not affected by launch vibrations. After the launch, these clamps are no longer needed, since another mechanism keeps Beagle 2 in place during the six-month trip to the Red Planet.
This second mechanism allows Mars Express to deploy Beagle 2 on arrival at Mars. However, if the launch clamps had not released today, the second mechanism would have failed. "The Beagle-2 mission would have been over before it had even started!" commented ESA Lander Manager, Con McCarthy.
Monica Talevi | alfa
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